Samurai Shodown, known as Samurai Spirits (サムライスピリッツ Samurai Supirittsu?, Samu Supi in short) in Japan, is a competitive fighting game developed and published by SNK for their Neo Geo arcade and home platform. Released in 1993, it is the first installment in the Samurai Shodown series. In contrast to other fighting games at the time which were set in modern times and focused primarily on hand-to-hand combat, Samurai Shodown is set in feudal-era Japan (similar to Kaneko's Shogun Warriors) and was one of the first fighting games to focus primarily on weapon-based combat after the success of Capcom's Street Fighter II.
The game is set in the late 18th century and all the characters wield weapons. The game uses comparatively authentic music from the time period, rife with sounds of traditional Japanese instruments, such as the shakuhachi and shamisen, and a refined version of the camera zoom first found in Art of Fighting. True to its use of bladed weapons, the game also included copious amounts of blood.
The game quickly became renowned for its fast pace, focused more on quick, powerful strikes than the combos. As to emphasize the distinction of this gameplay system, slow motion was added to intensify damage dealt from hard hits. Also during a match, a referee held flags representing each player (player 1 was white; player 2 red). When a player landed a successful hit, the referee would lift the corresponding flag, letting everyone watching know who dealt the blow. To lessen the repetition of fights, a delivery man running in the background threw items such as chicken (that healed) or bombs, which could significantly change the outcome of a play.